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Gaining An R.A.F Pilots Brevet In WW II

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Gaining An R.A.F Pilots Brevet In WW II

Old 3rd Jan 2010, 14:21
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The Beastie

How did you know? The Beastie is my favourite place to stop for lunch! Nice atmosphere and friendly staff and great (inexpensive) food. And before you ask, no I'm not getting paid for the plug!

Cheers

Tom
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Old 3rd Jan 2010, 14:32
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RJHR photos

Here are the photos - one of RJHR at Biggin Hill in 1942, one of RJHR with groundcrew and his personal Spit named Connie and a third of RJHR taxying out in Connie.







Yours

Tom
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Old 3rd Jan 2010, 14:41
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I used to enjoy regular night stops at Kinloss when flying Coastal Command Communications Flight Ansons out of Bovingdon in 60/61. Everybody loved the RB in those days.
John
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Old 3rd Jan 2010, 17:42
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A Spitfire Pilot - Part 36.

I hung around the Station Adj’s office for some time and when I eventually saw him, I explained what I wanted and he took me in to the Group Captain, whose name, I think, was Edwardes-Jones, and again I had to explain where I’d come from and what I wanted and all I got out of this good Group Captain, was the fact that he was unable to authorise me to take another aircraft from Maison Blanche back to Souk-el-Arba because it would only get shot up on the ground, so go away and be a good boy.

I tried to explain that by having more aircraft there we stood a fair chance of keeping the Jerries off and therefore there’d be less shot up on the ground, but I didn’t seem to be getting anywhere and I was ushered out. I went over to the dispersal, feeling a bit fed up with life, and on the way I met a couple of Australian pilots who’d been stuck in Algiers for ages and no one seemed to know what to do with them, there was no operational flying going on from there, they weren’t getting any flying in and they were getting right bolshie. So I took them with me into the dispersal office and chatted up the sergeant there and without mentioning the fact that I’d been to see the Station Commander, I merely said I’d come to pick up three additional aircraft. So, like a good lad, he produced three Spitfires, we piled our gear into each of them and without waiting to say a very long farewell, taxied out and went back to Souk-el-Arba. I thought we could do with the aircraft and we could certainly do with the additional pilots and Bob Oxspring was quite chuffed!


Enter, and exit, The Italian Air Force and a reflection on sweat.

In all the time I was in North Africa, we only ran across the Italian Air Force on one occasion and that was when we were doing a fighter sweep, as usual, towards Tunis and we came across a great batch of Italian bombers and even more 109s. Now, we did our best to get down to the bombers, but we were kept away by more and more 109s, but we did manage to see, whilst we were trying to avoid getting shot down that the bombers, instead of carrying straight on with whatever duty they were doing and bashing on to the target, they continued to fly round and round in circles, so that by the time we finished our dogfight, they’d scarpered back to wherever they’d come from, so we weren’t particularly impressed.

On 18th December we were told to escort some Bostons to bomb Mateur and I was flying number 3 to Chas, and Sollet, a fairly new sergeant as number 2, me as 3 and Sergeant Hussey as 4. Well just before we got to Mateur, Hussey called up and said his engine was rough and he was going back, so that left me as tail-end Charlie of the section. Anyway, we were turning right down sun and Chas and I looked up from the port side, where we were flying, and saw about 20+ 109s and 190s. Despite our shouts on the r/t the squadron continued to turn right, but there was no future in that for us, inasmuch as it would have presented our backs to this wad of enemy aircraft and consequently Chas and I broke left and pulled up into the down-coming enemy aircraft. Now young Sollet, as I said, was quite a new lad and we’d impressed upon him that if we ever got into trouble and he lost sight of any of us, the best thing he could do was not hang around but belt off home as fast as he could, weaving like mad. Anyway, as Chas and I pulled up we were going up into the sun, naturally, and I saw Chas get one 190 and I was pulling up to get closer to him and I must have gone up higher than I thought, or a worse angle, anyway, because the speed suddenly dropped off and I went into a spin. Now there was no future in trying to pull out and climb up again, because I’d have been a dead duck, so I continued spinning until I got close to the ground and then straightened off and started to belt for home, closely followed by two 109s.

Now the old engine wasn’t going too well, it was coughing and spluttering and not going as fast as I’d have liked it to go, so I got right down onto the deck and I was belting home as fast as possible, weaving like mad, in and out of valleys, frightening the life out of camels and odd bodies I passed over, still pursued by the 109s, who were taking odd potshots at me every now and again and all I could do was to keep turning the minute they came within range. Eventually after one of these turns, I managed to get a fairly good shot in at the leading 109 and he shot straight past me onto the deck and I thought by this time the other one would have cleared off, but he was a bit of a keen type and he went on chasing me all the way back to within a few miles of the aerodrome, he finally gave up, but he did manage to put seven bullet holes in the aircraft and when I finally landed at Souk-el-Arba, I had no ammunition, very little petrol and I was absolutely drenched in perspiration! Most of it, I must admit, due to heaving the aircraft about at low level, and doing all sorts of things that the Spit wasn’t meant to do and probably quite a percentage due to the fact that I was scared stiff. But anyway, I got back alright.

It’s one thing to fight on fairly even terms, but when you have no ammunition and you were having a job keeping the engine going, it does give you food for thought. I spoke to the groundcrew afterwards and they showed me one of the petrol filters which was half full of dust and muck and what have you, so I’m not surprised I had trouble with the aircraft. The funny thing was that we told Sollet to go back if he got lost, which he did, but he hadn’t realised that we were supposed to go down on the deck and weave like mad. He’d climbed up with us to start with, into the sun, and then lost sight of everybody, which wasn’t unusual, so doing as he was told, he came home. He told me he flew back at 5000’, straight and level, no weaving, just looking at the countryside and he arrived at Souk-el-Arba without any damage at all, and yet Chas and I, who by this time were, I must say, very experienced, were fighting like maniacs and getting shot to pieces – a strange old life.

Tom, many thanks for posting the pictures, they've come out really well, far better than the actual piccies themselves that I remember! If you look carefully you can see that they are two different Spits, One named Connie in capitals, and one in upper and lower case. Before and after the wing-wobbling . . . . . !!

Last edited by johnfairr; 4th Jan 2010 at 14:05.
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Old 4th Jan 2010, 17:32
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A Spitfire Pilot - Part 37

This is the penultimate excerpt from my fathers' memoirs and describes his final combat and subsequent wounding.

December 20th 1942 – Aerodrome Patrol, Souk-el-Arba

I didn’t fly on 19th December and wasn’t due to fly on 20th, but we’d just had a portable gramophone given to us with several records, including two Bing Crosbys’ that Mum and I have copies of at home, and also some Vera Lynns and I was happily listening to a Vera Lynn record of “Do I Love You, Do I?” when the flight commander came over and said that he was due to fly an aerodrome patrol but didn’t really feel in the mood and would I mind going? Well there was nothing else to do out there, so I said OK. Now I couldn’t fly my aircraft, so I got in another one, took off with Sergeant Hussey to do this aerodrome patrol. I’d been up for about 40 minutes and the aircraft decided it was going to fly itself. I’d hold the stick steady and the aircraft would fair bump up and down, like going on a roller-coaster. There was obviously something funny somewhere, so I brought it down and landed. I suppose if I’d had any sense, I’d have stayed down but I got into another aircraft, took off again and joined Sergeant Hussey for our aerodrome patrol.

Well, we hadn’t been up very long when they reported from the ground that there was a 20+ raid coming in from Medjiz el Bab, which was not far up the road from us. Well that seemed great for Hussey and I, inasmuch as we were high enough to spot a high bunch coming in and we’d probably get a very good bounce on the ones that were coming in lower. And lo and behold, in they came. We started to go down on them and it seemed far too easy, because normally the Hun fights in layers and you go down after one lot and the next lot comes down and clobbers you. Well I couldn’t see anything above so we continued on down and just before we got within range, I looked down and there was one 109 creeping along the deck, coming up underneath Hussey, who was flying about 200 yards from me. So I called Hussey up and told him to break, but either he didn’t hear me or else his r/t had gone u/s which wasn’t an uncommon occurrence out there at that time. Anyway as the Jerry had started shooting and I could see the flashes all over the place from his guns, I pulled in to try and head him off and with luck have a crack at him, and I’m not sure now whether I hit him or not, but the next thing I knew there was a hell of a bang and I got hit in the head and started bleeding like a stuck pig.

I couldn’t see out of my right eye and was feeling a bit groggy so the only thing to do was to crash-land and I can remember it as clearly as anything. It was twenty to five in the afternoon, it was a Sunday and I was at 1500’. So I pushed the aircraft down, it was doing about 180 by that time. I landed with the wheels up and the engine still going and all I got out of the crash was a bruised shoulder, because the Spitfire could take an enormous amount of punishment without any damage to the pilot. Anyway, I came to a grinding halt and by the time I’d finished, the engine was pointing off to the left and I was staring from the cockpit out over nothing. I opened the hood and door and crawled out and crawled as far as I could from the aircraft, because the Huns were great ones for coming back and shooting you up on the ground. Anyway, nothing happened to me from above and I saw a lorry come driving across this mudfield and stop a little way from me and out from the back came an army bloke with a rifle and I thought,

“That’s all I need, some idiot to shoot me now I’ve landed!”

Anyway I put my hand up and they realised I was, in fact, English and they helped me into the back of the lorry and took me to a casualty station. I was operated on at night and I asked the doc if he could keep all the little bits and pieces he took out of me, and at one time I had an envelope with about nine little bits of shrapnel and odd pieces, but I’m afraid, over the years, I’ve mislaid it.

The following day I had a hair-raising ride in an ambulance to another casualty station and the day after that we were picked up again and put on an ambulance train to the 84th General Hospital at Souk Arras, where I got my first decent nights sleep, doped to the eyeballs. There was a fair amount of disorganisation and I worked out it was a darn sight better being an officer than an Other Rank, especially if you were wounded.

I had the stitches taken out of my forehead on Christmas Eve, and as I couldn’t get out of bed or move my head, I had to just lie there and listen to all the chat that was going on around me and in particular, listen to some very affected voice from a chap in the bed next to mine. He seemed a right twit, frankly, but after a couple of days the colonel of his regiment came in and from what I gather, a chap whom I thought was a complete twit, turned out to be a right hero.

He was a Coldstream Guards Officer and their position had been overrun by tanks and he managed to get out of his slit-trench and nipped around putting bombs under the German tanks and causing quite a bit of chaos and confusion, so I realised that you can’t really tell what anyone is like merely by listening to them talk.
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Old 5th Jan 2010, 18:22
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A Spitfire Pilot - Part 38 and final instalment

On 30th December George Malan had written me a letter and collected some of my gear and got the r/t sergeant to come and bring it to me, which made a nice change On 31st December we were put aboard an ambulance train to go back to the 94th General Hospital in Algiers and again, it was a lot better being an officer than an Other Rank. Officers were two to a carriage or compartment, so we could lie down, one on each side of the seats and the Other Ranks seemed to go in cattle-trucks, which seems a bit unfair, as we were all in the same war and all getting shot by the same people.

The train ride was quite interesting. It was the first time I’d seen my face since I’d been on the squadron and I managed to crawl to the toilet and on looking at my face in the mirror, it wasn’t the prettiest sight I’d seen. To start with I hadn’t had a shave since 20th December and what with an enormous bruise covering most of my face, and being painted with Gentian Violet, it was like something out of a horror film. But it didn’t particularly worry me, all I wanted to know was, could I see again? Apart from that the train was going so slowly that every now and again, the odd arab would climb aboard and sit in the corridors. The French officers who were on the train escorting us didn’t have much time for these arabs and they had no compunction about opening the carriage door and booting the arabs out into the countryside, even while the train was going.

Having got to the 94th General, I was looked over by the chief surgeon and the eye surgeon, who gave me the cheery news that I would never see out of my right eye again and that they’d have to operate and take it out. I pleaded with them not to and asked if they could take the bits of shrapnel out that were in and around my eye, but keep the eye in, as I had some idea that if I could just keep the eye in and look normal, I might wangle myself back on flying. But the doc said, no he couldn’t do that, but after all he gave in and said he’d give it a try.

Well he did, he took bits and pieces of shrapnel out, whilst still in a hell of a lot of pain and he came along and said

“The old eye has got to come out” and again I said “No” and I just stuck to my guns.

But unfortunately by 10th January, I couldn’t stand the pain any longer, so I asked them to go ahead, which they did and the following day I felt a lot better, despite the fact that I was minus one eye. Then I was told by the Padre who came wandering around every now and again, that it was a good job I’d agreed to have the operation because septicaemia had set in and had I not had the operation I’d have gone blind in the other eye and that would have been the end of that. So I suppose I was lucky.

The nurses were all members of Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Military Nursing Service and they were a great bunch. They were worked to death, most of the nurses were, but they never complained and were always cheerful and we had a great time with them but all I wanted to do was go home.

George Malan managed to get back to Algiers and came to see me in hospital and gave me all the latest news of the squadron. Apparently Chas had been shot down on that do we had over Mateur but had got back to the squadron alright, and later on in the month, Chas and Mitch, another one of our pilots, came up to see me and told me my DFC was through. Well I had no official confirmation and it wasn’t until I landed in England and phoned Mum that she said it was in the paper. (This was Gazetted on February 23rd 1943 and on the same date DFCs were awarded to S/L Nelson-Edwards of 93 Sqn, F/L Ford, 72 Sqn and WO Chas Charnock, 72 Sqn, of the Souk el Arba composite Spitfire Wing)

I began to feel a lot better physically apart from the fact that I knew I’d never fly again, which rather gave me the miseries, but generally speaking things weren’t too bad. We had a large number of American as well as British people in the hospital and it amused the British lot when an American officer arrived with a little truck or trolley, full of Purple Heart Medals to be given to all the wounded Americans.

I also had a chat with a naval Commander, who’d been shot down while flying a Swordfish and he told me that he was doing an aerodrome patrol, of all things, round Algiers and he’d been going round the harbour time and time again. One day he was trundling round in his Swordfish and he’d gone round the harbour once and going round a second time the American ack-ack opened up and shot him down and consequently as soon as he was fit to walk we used to walk round the hospital chatting to the Americans and pulling their legs like made.

I met one very nice American officer, a Captain Hamlin, who was about 6’ 4” and his leg used to stick out of the end of the bed. The only trouble was that he had an enormous wound in his thigh and occasionally people would walk past the end of the bed and hit his outstretched foot, but he never really complained. He gave me his lighter when I left which I thought was rather nice of him.

I had a lot of time to lie and think whilst I was in hospital and I decided that it was hardly fair to Mum to keep her to our engagement, insofar as, it is one thing to be engaged to someone who is all in one piece and certainly something else to be engaged to someone who is hardly 100% and consequently I wrote and said that so far as I was concerned, she could call our proposed marriage off and there’d be no hard feelings.

Mum wouldn’t hear of any such thing and in all the years I’ve known her, she’s never once mentioned that she thinks she got the worst of the bargain, because your mother, young John, is quite something.

Finally on 18th February, after lots of false starts and lots of hanging about, we were put on board the Hospital Ship Newfoundland and told we were on our way home. We eventually got to Bristol, and were taken off the ship and put on a hospital train to go to an American hospital at Taunton. The nursing sisters saw us off and whilst we were sitting in the hospital train……

Tape ends

This is rather an abrupt end and I'm not sure why. My wife seems to think there was one more tape, but I'm not so sure. Anyway, I'll add a few more of my own recollections and details of the next few years to tidy things up, in a day or so.

Last edited by johnfairr; 6th Jan 2010 at 08:15.
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Old 5th Jan 2010, 19:25
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Simply wonderful memoirs.......
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Old 5th Jan 2010, 20:59
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every tale from every contributor, fantastic. A priviledge to read each and every story.

I sincerely hope that more people will continue. Regle you must have more post war stories, I'm not convinced that Cliff has finished either.
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Old 5th Jan 2010, 22:09
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Johnfairr and Jimmy Macintosh

Johm I promise that I shall never grumble at my small misfortunes again. I feel humbled by the cheerfulnesss and courage that shines through your Father's marvellous memoirs. I am proud to have been in the same service at the same time and to have shared his evident love of flying, so eloquently expressed. Thank you and feel contented that you have made us old fogies very proud of being his contemparies. Jimmy, I and I feel sure that Cliff has felt the same, have just stood back and left the stage to John and have not wanted to break the spell. How can you follow such a story ? Regle

Last edited by regle; 6th Jan 2010 at 11:22.
 
Old 6th Jan 2010, 08:49
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John - thanks so much for your work on your Dad's memoirs.

I didn't know about the wound that ended his war flying days, amazing the humility one feels when reading about it.

That said, I'm sure I recall that your Dad did take controls of a plane again, albeit accompanied. Have I got this wrong?
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Old 6th Jan 2010, 11:22
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How can you follow such a story ? Regle
Not sure that I can follow that story, Reg, but I reckon you probably can!!

This remains the best thread on PPRuNe. Please don't stop.

Adam
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Old 6th Jan 2010, 11:32
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Thanks Adam . I must admit that I have been moved tremendously by John's Father's memoirs and count myself so lucky to have survived without the physical damage that he and so many others suffered. The psychological effects are another story. I shall hie myself soon to the "Such A Bl...y Experience, Never Again !"label that the initials of Sabena lent themselves to for many decades and were entirely undeserved. All the best , Reg.
 
Old 6th Jan 2010, 12:12
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Stupid, I know, but I've just noticed that the last few parts of the memoirs have finished on Page 72. Quite spooky, I'm sure he had a hand in it . . . .
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Old 6th Jan 2010, 14:05
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John Fairr

I've really enjoyed reading your fathers story, particularly the stuff in North Africa. The story about travelling in the back of the van with a pig is one of those things the history books will never recall, but adds tremendously to the human face of the war, and I had a good chuckle when along with the two Aussies, he aquired 3 Spitfires.

Thanks
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Old 6th Jan 2010, 14:38
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John Fairr

Thank you for your fascinating account. My father was killed in Tunisia in 1943 when his convoy was mistakenly attacked by the RAF. My mother didn't tell me he died in a friendly fire incident until after I had completed 19 years service in the RAF. I had always assumed the Luftwaffe was responsible. The chaos of war.
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Old 7th Jan 2010, 11:21
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John Fairr

Hi John,

I have been introduced to this site by Angus Mansfield. Roy Hussey was my uncle and I am in the process of putting to gether a book dealing with the war experiencies of most of my uncles and mother and father.

Roy Hussey features quite strongly, as there is fair amount of material about him. I have his log book, many photographs and and some original corespondence, including a letter from Tom Hughes' mother.

His log book records the patrol of the 20th December thus:

Patrol base 1hr 5 mins intercepted 15 (109 Gs Fs Es) Robbie shot down. Wounded but OK.

On page 107 of Fighters over Tunisia by Christopher Shores, Roy is phtographed standing next to a 109 that he is credited with having shot down on the 20th. This seems unlikely as although Roy never records any of his decorations or promotions in his log book (just those of his collegues) he does seem meticulus in recording air victories. None are recorded for either of the 2 patrols on the 2oth but a damged and probable (later cert) are recorded on the 21st.

After some 450 hours of combat flying - all with 72 squadron - Roy was posted back to the uk doing some testing fro Vickers and airgunnery instruction. In October 1944 he was posted to 19 squadron flying MkIII Mustangs giving hiogh cover to bombers over Germany. On the 20th February 1945, while visting NZ Beaufighter squadron 489 at Dalhachy aifield for tea and a chat. He spun in on landing and was killed.

Eddy
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Old 7th Jan 2010, 12:08
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John Fairr

Inspiring, humbling, and hilarious, your Father's tremendous account of his war experiences, both at home and abroad, has been a most heart-warming read, and I, along with so many others am, most grateful both to him for everything he did, and recorded so vividly, and also to you for so graciously sharing such a personal story with us. Thank you very much indeed.

Jack

PS Based on the number of posts per page I have displayed, your Father was in 48 Squadron!
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Old 7th Jan 2010, 22:28
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Some more Sabena...eventually !

With the best intentions in the world I set out to tell some more Sabena anecdotes but cannot find my memoirs. As my good friend and patient Mentor , Andy, will testify, I am not the tidiest of people and after scrolling back to my story beginning on P.14, #263 . ( I could not believe that it was in Sep.2008) I got interested and started all over again but still could not find the incentive and the means to continue. I have a feeling that I have left them in Brussels where I spent Xmas. I have recourse to a few relatives that have copies and have most on the hard drive of my ancient Sharp word processor which I still use from time to time.. Why , I could not tell you.. Probably nostalgia. All is not lost. There is one more cupboard in the chaos of my so called Study which I will turn out tomorrow as I am now snowbound as Dover had it's first snow today and , of course the main road is open but I cannot get to my Garage as I have not skated for ages and think that I am a bit past it now. Watch this column, Regle. I will make certain that I have proper copies to fall back on in future !
 
Old 7th Jan 2010, 22:55
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I cannot get to my Garage as I have not skated for ages and think that I am a bit past it now

Regle - Keep warm and take great care if you do have to go outside - you have already done more than your fair share of flying inverted!

With best wishes, and we are all hoping that the missing memoirs will turn up soon and be duly "converted" for the continued delectation of your faithful followers.

Jack
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Old 8th Jan 2010, 15:25
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Eureka !

As I thought, I opened the cupboard...how any foreigner masters English I shall never know,,cupboard to rhyme with Hubbard.! The other day there was an obviously non English speaking Gentleman standing in front of a Cinema sign . He was weeping and pointing silently at the sign and shaking his head. The sign proclaimed "Now showing "Bewitched." Pronounced Success. But I am straying. Out of the cupboard came a cloud of dust and some early copies of "Playboy" and underneath were the precious memoirs. So if my finger stands up to the strain... I forgot to mention that I have learned to play the ukelele over the last few weeks and have hard steely finger tips on my left hand as a result. My rendering of "When I'm cleaning Windows " would have them pelting me with rotten eggs in Lancashire . Anyway when I have cleaned the memoirs up to allow me to post them further . Dust, I mean ! I digress again. Watch this space...Regle.
 

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